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Pieces of Eight


 
Lt. Col. Steve Delvaux, professor of military science and battalion commander of ECU’s Army ROTC program, works to prepare ECU cadets for potential service in Iraq or Afghanistan. (Photos by Marc J. Kawanishi)

 

Marathon Runner Delvaux Runs for Wounded Soldiers

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

Lt. Col. Steve Delvaux used to run to stay in shape and as part of his training as an Army officer, serving two tours of duty in Iraq.

Now, he is running with a bigger mission: for fellow soldiers.

On Oct. 28, Delvaux will run 26.2 miles in the 32nd Annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and with every mile he will be raising funds for wounded soldiers in military hospitals across the country.

He has set a personal goal of raising $10,000 for the Azalea Charity’s Aid for Wounded Soldiers project. And he’s more than half way there.

Delvaux arrived at East Carolina University in June as professor of military science and battalion commander of ECU’s Army ROTC program. He spent the last four years serving in the 187th Infantry Regiment, the Army’s famed “Iron Rakkasans,” as part of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Azalea Charity is a non-profit organization that raises money to provide comfort and relief items to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines sick or injured from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. In addition to providing items to soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where many injured soldiers are sent when they first return to the United States after being injured, the group assists the Durham VA Medical Center and the Wounded Warriors Barracks at Camp Lejeune.

Delvaux ran in his first marathon in April–the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. After five months of intensive training, he told his wife the morning of the marathon that it would be his first and last. But the next day, he realized he liked the challenge and having a goal to work for so he signed up for the Marine Corps marathon.

“It struck me that if I was going to be running in it then I should make it mean something,” said Delvaux. “Right now I feel kind of helpless since I’m not in a unit deployed. I felt there was something I could do for those men and women wounded.”

During his years in Iraq, Delvaux saw the effects of IEDs and sniper bullets on fellow servicemen and women.

After returning in September 2006 from duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Delvaux was reading an article on wounded soldiers and saw a familiar face: Tom Deierlein, whom Delvaux had known as a fellow cadet at the United States Military Academy and later served with as a lieutenant in the Berlin Brigade in the early 1990s.

“He had been out of the Army for more than a decade and had gotten called back to duty. He had been working in Manhattan as a chief operating officer, and then he was wounded in Iraq right after I left,” said Delvaux, while surrounded in his ECU ROTC office with framed photos and certificates from his 24 years in the military.

A native of South Dakota, Delvaux joined the Army immediately after high school and earned an appointment to West Point. After graduating in 1990, he received his commission as an infantry officer and was assigned to the Berlin Brigade in Berlin, Germany. He was later stationed at Fort Campbell, as part of the 101st Airborne Division, earned his master’s degree in military history from Florida State University, taught military history at West Point, and was stationed in Korea for a year before being reassigned to the 101st Airborne. With that division, he deployed to Iraq in 2003 for eight months and returned for another year in 2005, returning home Sept. 12, 2006.

Delvaux said that ECU was number one on his wish list for his next assignment as an ROTC program director.

He admits that recruiting for military service during wartime isn’t easy, but he said that he has found the ECU cadets to be outstanding and the region very supportive of military service.

The ECU program typically awards 12 to 15 four-year scholarships for freshmen who pledge to serve as active duty or in the reserve forces for four years.

“We don’t have a shortage of students in line for those scholarships,” Delvaux said.

Lt. Col. Steve Delvaux trains for an upcoming 26.2-mile marathon, the 32nd Annual Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28. His efforts will raise funds to provide comfort for wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to military hospitals such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

During the day, Delvaux works to shape those cadets into future Army officers, some of whom may see service in Iraq or Afghanistan in the coming years. But in the early morning hours, Delvaux is working to get himself in shape for the Oct. 28 marathon.

“When I decided to run for a charity, I wanted one that would aid those soldiers in their most desperate hour of need,” he said.

“I’ve always felt those first weeks after the servicemen and women are wounded are the hardest. They are ripped away from their unit, which is like a second family for us. And they end up in military hospitals in Iraq, Germany or Walter Reed and are, more often than not, very far from family and friends.”

Delvaux said he liked that Azalea Charities has no paid staff. “All donations go to providing aid in some form to the soldiers, whether it’s a phone calling card or an electric razor for guys who can’t use a blade razor due to being on a blood-thinning medication.”

Delvaux said he has been humbled by the contributions from family, friends and some strangers who have received the address to his fund raising Web page from someone else.

“The response has been overwhelming and the humbling part for me is to read the messages that people leave saying their donation is in honor or memory of a soldier. One man donated $101 in honor of the 101st Airborne Division, which he served in, and in memory of his brother who was also in the 101st and was killed in Vietnam,” he said.

“When I was out running recently, it was hot and I started feeling tired and miserable and sorry for myself, then I started to think of the guys in these military hospitals, some of whom may never be able to run again because of the devastating injuries they received while serving us and our great nation,” Delvaux said.

“I didn’t stay tired very long. This is something I can do to help and honor our brave servicemen and women at the same time.”

To learn more about Delvaux’s run for Azalea Charity’s “Aid for Wounded Soldiers Project” or to make a donation, visit www.active.com/donate/Run4WoundedSoldiers/rakkasan.

5/16/06
This page originally appeared in the September 21, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/Arch.cfm.